award winner

Interview and Award-Winning Memoir of Walter J. Scherr

Walter’s Way: How A Relief Kid Survived TB, Corporate Betrayal, Bankruptcy, Made Millions, and Touched the Lives of Billions is a memoir by Walter J. Scherr, co-written by John Hanc and Deborah Chiel. The memoir, published by John Wiley & Sons, won the 2017 Lumen Award for Literary Excellence, and Gold for nonfiction in the 2017 Literary Classics Book Awards contest.

Mr. Scherr, now 93, was interviewed by his co-writer John Hanc.

What inspired you to write your memoir?

“I always wanted to do this as a legacy project for my grandchildren. I also wanted people to know about the Center for Discovery, a facility in upstate New York that provides services for children and adults with severe disabilities. It’s a very special place, and it’s not as well-known as it should be. I hope my book will give it greater exposure.” (Hanc Ed. Note: All net proceeds of Walter’s Way go to the Center.)

What’s the target age group for your book?

“Anybody, of any age, that is entrepreneurial, or that needs inspiration and would like to hear a good story about a kid who started off with nothing, but through hard work and the help of others, became a success. Personally, I don’t think we can get enough of those stories!”

You decided to use professional writing help for your book. What was that like?

“I wrote about eight chapters on my own. But when the professional writers got involved, I realized why they are professionals. There was more depth, more background, more color and context in everything. Dialogue was more natural, and the story just seemed to flow much better. It worked also because we were a good team…the designers and other people involved in the project as well…and we all had a common goal. That was, to produce a really good book. Winning two prestigious awards…a silver medal the Axiom Business Book awards last year, and now this wonderful Literary Classics award are the proof that we succeeded.”

Your book is a memoir, but you met some interesting and well-known people in your life. Who would be among the most memorable characters that you discuss in your book?

“I had the privilege of meeting, and in some cases, working with Douglas MacArthur, Mother Theresa and David Rockefeller—not to mention some of the most brilliant corporate and military minds of their generation. I hope young readers will discover and learn something about these amazing people, and the remarkable times I lived through.”

Do you have plans to, or have you already, released an audio edition of your book?

“Yes! It was produced by Tom `T.C.’ Czajczynski, and we’ve got some original music on it. I’m very proud of it. We hope to have it available for sale at the Great American Book Festival in Rapid City.”

Who are some of your favorite YA and/or children’s book authors?

“I can’t say that I have too many at my age. But I did see `The Lion King’ five times! It was one of the most beautiful and meaningful productions I’ve ever seen.”

What did you learn about the writing process from doing your book?

“It takes discipline, concentration… and the right attitude. And it helps to have a good memory, if you’re doing a memoir!”

Do you have anything special you’d like to say to your readers or fellow award-winning authors?

“First of all, I’d like to congratulate my fellow authors and award-winners. Second, as I am probably the oldest in this group, I’d like to offer a little advice to anyone reading this. It’s never too late to start. I was 90 when I made the decision to write this memoir. If you want to write a book, or compose a song, or paint a picture or build a business, don’t let anything stand in your way. You have to be obsessed, in a positive way. That’s really the secret. There are always going to be up’s and down’s in life. Having that positive attitude is what keeps you moving forward—or backwards or whatever direction you want to go.”

Co-Writer Bios

Walter J. Scherr

New York native Walter J. Scherr was a founding board member and executive officer of four international companies and chairman of three charitable foundations. Walter’s many ventures, which include the production of a Hollywood film, “Whatever It Takes” (1986) took him to 42 countries over the course of his career. He has been profiled in Fortune and the Wall Street Journal. In 2005, he was honored by the United States Congress with a Certificate of Congressional Recognition for his outstanding and invaluable service to the community.

John Hanc

John, the author/co-author of 16 books, is also a long-time contributing writer to the New York Times, Smithsonian, Newsday and Runner’s World magazine. He teaches memoir writing at the annual Harvard Medical School Writing, Publishing and Social Media course and is an associate professor of communications at New York Institute of Technology.

Deborah Chiel

A writer, editor, and collaborator who began her publishing career at Simon & Schuster over 30 years ago, Deb has written or co-written sixteen fiction and nonfiction books.

Award-Winning Book

Part autobiography and part history lesson, Walter Scherr’s memoir WALTER’S WAY is a tale full of adventure and excitement as well as disappointment and heartache. Scherr’s new book tells the story of how a Depression-era boy from Queens, New York overcame a life-threatening illness to live an adventurous life as a globe-trotting executive who witnessed and helped foster the post-World War II economic boom. The lessons he shares about business, leadership, innovation, entrepreneurship, philanthropy, and family are priceless. While imparting Scherr’s unique perspectives on business, success, risk, love, and life, WALTER’S WAY will also inspire the power of philanthropy and the value of caring for others, a spirit that shines through the pages of the book. All proceeds from the sale of the book are being donated to The Center for Discovery.

 “This a compelling story that will encourage and inspire readers of all ages.” Literary Classics Book Awards

Follow Walter’s Way on Facebook, Twitter, and Walter Scherr’s website. For additional information on the Center for Discovery (charitable partner of Walter’s Way), please visit http://www.thecenterfordiscovery.org/.

Many congratulations to Mr. Scherr and his writing team! Read about more Literary Classics Book Awards winners on my Interviews page and the Literary Classics website.

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Interview: Literary Classics Award Winner, Jacqui Letran

Jacqui Letran is the author of 5 Simple Questions to Reclaim Your Happiness!the Gold winner in the Young Adult Self-Help category of the 2017 Literary Classics Book Awards contest.

Congratulations on your achievement! When did you first start writing?

Thank you so much! It is truly an honor to be recognized by such a reputable company as Children Literary Classics. I started writing professionally in 2014.

What’s the target age group for your books?

Although the content in my book applies to anyone, whether young or old, I wrote this book specifically for readers aged from 12 to their early 20’s. While writing, I imagine my readers reading the book in hope of discovering ways to let go of their emotional burdens, feel good about themselves, and trying to create better, more connected relationships. I wanted readers to be able to apply the content they are learning immediately so I wrote it in an easy to understand style, and included exercises through out the book to help readers work out some of their own concerns. I hope my books help readers gain insights, feel more in control of their feelings, and have the courage to let go of their pain and choose happiness instead.

What inspired your award-winning book?

I never entertained the idea of being an author until my clients kept requesting that I share my work in writing. I am blessed to have a private practice helping people take control of their lives by taking control of their thoughts and feelings.  I believe in helping people overcome their problems and giving them the tools to be their own source of strength and power. So with each client, I would teach them about their mind and how to take control of it to create the happiness and successes they deserve.  I provide a lot of new information to digest so my clients would ask for a written summary.  After repeatedly hearing this request, the most logical thing to do was write a book.  As the book evolved, I became more excited. I realized how important books were to me when I was a teen in need of help, and here was my chance to pay it forward.

Describe one of your characters with a cliché or a famous quote.

This is not about one of the characters in my book, but about the book itself.

“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Buddha

I know it’s a bit dramatic, but when you think about it that way, it becomes silly to hang onto anger or other toxic emotions, when you can choose happiness instead.

Do you have plans to, or have you already, released audio editions of your books?

5 Simple Questions to Reclaim Your Happiness! is the first of three books in the “Words of Wisdom for Teens” series. It is not available as an audio book yet, but that is in the works.  The second book in the series, I would, but my DAMN MIND won’t let me! won Literary Classics’ Top Honor Award for Young Adult Non-Fiction as well as a Gold Medal in 2016.  This book is available in eBook, paperback, and audio.

Who would you cast as the voice actor to narrate your book? 

If I could cast anyone to narrate my book, I would choose Emma Watson.  She is a beautiful, strong, and talented young woman with a lovely voice.  I admire her acting, and her activism for gender equality.

Do you have any quirky writing habits?

I’m not sure if this is a quirk, but I have to write my books by hand.  I discovered early in my writing attempts that if I typed my book, I would spend too much time editing as I wrote, instead of just allowing the concept to flow freely into form. By writing it out by hand, my ideas are able to flow freely and the process is much more enjoyable.

How do you balance writing with book promotion and everything else there is to do in life?

Book promotion is a must if you want to have success as a writer.  I schedule time for interviews, workshops, and other book promotion activities just as I would schedule time to see clients or work on other aspects of my business.

Do you have anything special you’d like to say to your readers or fellow award-winning authors?

To my readers, even though it might not feel like it at times, the struggles you’re currently going through will pass.  You are stronger than you know and you have everything within you to overcome your challenges and become an even stronger person.  Believe in yourself.  Be true to yourself.  You deserve a happy, successful life.

To my fellow award-winning authors, it is such an honor to be among a group of truly talented writers.

Author Bio

Jacqui Letran is a Multi-Award Winning Author, International Speaker, Nurse Practitioner, and Founder of Teen Confidence Academy and Healing Minds. She is passionate about her commitment to guiding her clients to achieve remarkable success in their academic, personal, and professional lives. Through private sessions, group workshops, and keynote engagements, Jacqui teaches that success and happiness are achievable by all, regardless of current struggles and circumstances. A gifted and energetic leader, Jacqui dedicates her life’s work to helping her clients and students transform into happy, confident, and successful people.

She is also the winner of the:
2017 Literary Classics’ Gold Medal for Young Adult Self-Help Books
2016 Literary Classics’ Lumen Award for Literary Excellence
2016 Literary Classics’ Gold Medal for Youth Adult Non-Fiction
2016 Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal Award for Young Adult Non-Fiction

When not working with clients or writing, you can find her traveling in her RV, hiking with her dog or spoiling her three cats. She currently lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

Connect with her on Facebook and on Instagram at Instagram.com/WOW4Teens and Instagram.com/MsLetran.

Award-Winning Book

Winner of the 2017 Literary Classics’ International Book Award’s Gold Medal for Best Young-Adult Self-Help book.

Are you tired of endless fights and misunderstandings between you and the people you care about? Do you feel like no matter what you say or do, you just can’t get anyone to understand you? Do you feel powerless, or as though it is easier hanging on to grudges and negativity than to continue struggling?

In this powerful book, Award-Winning Author and Teen Confidence Expert, Jacqui Letran, teaches you how to use five simple questions to transform your relationships from those filled with tension and frustration to those complete with trust and acceptance.

In this book, you will discover:

• How to identify your feelings
• How to understand why you feel as you do
• How to let go of your unwanted emotion
• How to create win-win situations, enhance and rebuild your relationships, and much more!

If you want to be in control of your feelings, and to let go of things easily, this book is for you. This compact guide is filled with simple tips and easy-to-follow techniques.

Get your copy today and get ready to reclaim your happiness and create amazing relationships for life!

“Valuable insight and unique perspectives allow readers to approach their concerns from a profound new angle in an effort to resolve issues and pave the way for a happier and more fulfilling life.” Literary Classics Book Awards

This book is available on Amazon.

I hope you enjoyed this interview as much as I have!

Read more about the 2017 Literary Classics Book Awards contest winners on my Interviews page and the Literary Classics website.

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Interview: Literary Classics Award Winner, Rebecca Hammond Yager

Author Rebecca Hammond Yager received the Literary Classics Words On Wings Book Award for her YA novel, Beauty & the Beast. Words on Wings is one of the contest’s Top Honors awards, given to extraordinary young adult fiction. Beauty & the Beast also won Gold in High School Romance.

Congratulations on your achievements! When did you first start writing?

Thank you! I first started writing around age 8, dipping my toes into poetry first before discovering novel writing at age 11. But I’ve been telling stories pretty much since I learned to speak. My mom always said I was alarmingly quiet at first, not starting off with all the typical baby words, and that when I finally started talking, it was in complete sentences. And once I was forming sentences, I was telling stories.

What’s the target age group for your books?

Beauty & the Beast is… I don’t know…12 and up? I think of it as for all ages really.

My first novel, Winds Cove, a YA mystery published in 2004, was also about the same, maybe for ages 10 and up. I think, or at least I hope, that my books are crafted well enough that they can’t be outgrown. My future books, several in the works but none finished yet, will be for teens and some for perhaps a slightly older audience though not because they’ll be inaccessible to teen audiences, more because the heroines will start to range more in age.

What inspired your award-winning book?

This is perhaps a longer answer than you were looking for, but here goes:

I dine on fairytales almost daily. They are not the only things I read—I love all kinds of Fantasy, Supernatural, Murder Mystery, some Horror, as well as Science Fiction/Science Fantasy—but I obsessively collect fairytales. Fairytales were my introduction to the Fantasy genre, and some of my earliest memories are my mom reading me fairytales before tucking me in at night. I can still hear her voice in the cadence of the words in one particular version of Cinderella, and I’m on the hunt for the particular version of Sleeping Beauty she read to me which I have not ever come across since. That’s a long way of saying fairytales are important to me. They’re literally woven into the fabric of my imagination. So in the midst of all the writing projects I have going, I’ve always wanted to squeeze some fairytale retellings in as well.

I had a vague idea, a lifetime or two ago, about a story centering around a cursed black lion. I knew immediately it was a Beauty and the Beast type of story, although I didn’t know how closely it would mirror its source. And then my ideas regarding the noble, raven-furred lion were lost to my piles and stacks and mountains of notebooks as other story ideas threw themselves in my path. I never forgot him. But his story has been stuck on the back burner ever since. Growing up with Madame Beaumont’s 1756 “Beauty and the Beast” and of course Disney’s enchanted retelling, I was utterly unprepared for Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve’s 140-page original version, The Story of the Beauty and the Beast, published in 1740, sixteen years before Madame Beaumont severely condensed it into the tale commonly found in fairytale collections. Moreover, I didn’t even know Villeneuve’s version existed until I stumbled across it on Amazon and realized Beaumont, so often credited as the inventor of the tale, was in fact only a reinventor like Disney and everyone else. While I completely understand why Beaumont chose to streamline the rambling story so much, I was simultaneously thrilled and dismayed to discover that the version I knew was only half the story. Beauty’s heritage and backstory had been shorn away and have now been all but obliterated from common knowledge. I was mesmerized in particular by Villeneuve’s Fairy Realm, a kingdom in the air belonging to a fairy race with their own laws, their own hierarchy, their own customs, and which fit so seamlessly within a fairytale world I was already constructing involving a Sky Kingdom and a race of Fae creatures. I also immediately felt I owed it to Beauty to finally get her story out there—or at least my version of it. I read and watched every version of BATB I could get my hands on, marinating in the story and seemingly infinite interpretations of it. Villeneuve’s & Beaumont’s versions of BATB, and the Brothers Grimm “Singing, Soaring Lark” were together the wellspring for my own reimagining. The three greatest influences for my inspiration aside from the fairytales themselves would have to be Jean Cocteau’s beguiling and eerie cinematic adaption released in 1946, the 2014 visual feast directed by Christophe Gans, and Hilary Knight’s magnificently illustrated 1990 rendition, all of which had me falling in love with the story over and over again each time I read or watched them. It is my hope, among many other hopes, that someday people will be as swept off their feet by my reimagining as I was about theirs.

Describe one of your characters with a cliché or a famous quote.

The Beast – “The eyes are the windows to the soul.”

Do you have plans to, or have you already, released audio editions of your books?

I have not. To be honest, I haven’t even thought about it. Hmmm…

Who would you cast as the voice actor for your main character?

Are we talking dream voice castings here? For the Beast it would be Liam McIntyre. I think he’d be smashing in a live action film adaptation too, but the reason I thought of him for the role was first and foremost for his delicious voice. Manu Bennett would be pretty spectacular too. If we’re talking reality then…. I have no idea. I have a friend who’s an actress who I would probably beg and plead to read for Beauty.

Do you illustrate your own books? If not, how did you find your illustrator?

My book doesn’t have illustrations but I did do the cover art myself. All the photography as well as the graphic design to put it all together. I did a fair bit of photography on the side before my allergies to the vulture sun forced me into a more vampiric nocturnal lifestyle.

Who are some of your favorite YA and/or children’s book authors?

Alexander Key for middle grade/YA. His books were my gateway to science fiction, and he captures a marvelous sense of wonder of the Universe while still seeing it as both broken and beautiful. It doesn’t matter how old I get or how many times I read them, his books haunt me and inspire me and sweep me away to this day.

For children’s books, there are probably too many to name but thinking in terms of picture books I would say Jan Pienkowski, Hilary Knight, the Sisters Johnstone, and Kinuko Craft are the ones I specifically look out for. I’m aware that they are all illustrators but some of them do their own writing, and while Kinuko Craft does not, her paintings make me want to fall inside her stories. In fact, she is one of my writing inspirations even though she’s not a writer—she is a master storyteller through her art, and I like to think of my writing as word painting. Even though I use a different medium, I want to tell stories the way she does. She’s fantastically brilliant.

Do you have any quirky writing habits?

I don’t know if they’re quirky—they all seem pretty normal to me anyway, lol. I write inside and outside, at the zoo or the lake or the park when I can find a shady spot, but most of the time I’m holed up in my house, surrounded by plants and animals and stacks of books as I write. I stare into space for days, weeks, even years, mulling and meditating over my ideas and letting them marinate in my imagination. I outline my stories usually halfway through writing them, which perhaps is one of my less practical habits. I also tend to write out of order, writing whichever scene overwhelms me when I pick up my pen and then stitching all the scenes together afterward. I’m trying to break myself of that habit actually since it makes for a lot of extra work toward the end.

I like to surround myself with things that inspire me specifically in the tone of whatever it is that I’m writing. For Beauty & the Beast, for example, I bought up every vintage version of Beauty & the Beast I could stretch my tiny paycheck to accommodate as well as a few lion statues, a pewter pegasus, and along with a pewter castle I’ve had for years that inspired the castle in the story, I would literally surround myself with them, the books open to my favorite illustrations and carefully overlapping each other in artistic piles, the lions and castle etc perched all around me while I wrote so that every time I glanced up my eye would fall on something beautiful and magical, my rescued cats and dogs in fuzzy heaps around me, with youtube enchanted forest videos playing in the background. It’s in those quiet, creative moments that I’m overwhelmed by the fact that no matter how little money I’m making, the writer’s life can be intensely beautiful.

Oh, oh! I don’t know if this is a habit exactly, but while I never ever put real people in my stories, myself included, I do give real animals cameos and roles. My stories always have animal characters as well as human ones, and they’re often inspired by or based on specific animals I have known. It’s sort of my way of imparting a slice of immortality on them. Beauty & the Beast contained 4 animal characters inspired by real life animals.

How do you balance writing with book promotion and everything else there is to do in life?

Book promotion is brand, spanking new to me so I’ll have to get back to you on that one. As far as the balance in my life between writing and keeping up a home and rescuing as many animals as possible, I’m afraid the housekeeping is what tends to fall by the wayside, lol. I’m still working on finding the right balance to be productive AND healthy AND have a clean house. It’s a challenge. My husband is very patient, although I am frequently banned from the kitchen due to my tendency to novel-plot and wander off to parts unknown while handling knives or using the stove.

Do you have anything special you’d like to say to your readers or fellow award-winning authors?

To writers—just write. The hardest part for me is gluing my rear to a chair long enough to be productive because I’m so easily distracted. So to writers like me, just write.

To my readers—thank you for getting swept away by my story. I hope I can sweep you away many many more times.

To all readers—Don’t ever let anyone make you feel like reading fiction is a waste of time. Fiction and Fantasy and Beauty have tremendous value. Savor beauty. Revel in it. It’s a treasure that can be anywhere and everywhere, and yet we can never have too much of it in our lives.

Author Bio

Rebecca Hammond Yager grew up in the bewitching realm of Vermont. She has a degree in creative writing and a lifetime love of monsters and beasts. When her nose isn’t in a book, her head is firmly in the clouds where all dreamy heads ought to be. She now lives in South Carolina with a menagerie of beasts and her handsome, longsuffering husband where she obsessively collects fairytales, devours fantasy and science fiction, and rescues animals.

Connect with her on Facebook, Goodreads, and Amazon.

Award-Winning Book

Winner of the 2017 WORDS ON WINGS Award, Literary Classics’ Top Honors Award for Young Adult Fiction

A young woman sacrifices herself to save her father and enters a moonlit kingdom of beasts on the borders of Faerie, overrun by thorns and roses, haunted by memories, and ruled by lions. To have any hope of seeing her family again, Beauty must unravel the riddle of the Beast and dispel the shadows of her own past in this lush and vivid reimagining of the timeless fairytale.

Those who yearn for poignant prose and vibrant imagery will no doubt delight in Yager’s brilliant representation of this timeless classic. Literary Classics Book Awards

This book is available on Amazon.

Read more about the 2017 Literary Classics Book Awards contest winners on my Interviews page and the Literary Classics website.

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